An offer of $100 off an order, with free returns, sounds tempting – but for some reason we didn’t follow through on the emails we got from some of our vendors saying that we could get this heady discount if we ordered their merchandise through Faire. I’d never heard of the site, and frankly the offer sounded too good to be true.

But at the recommendation of a few other retailers, I dug out an email from a few months ago and tried it. The total charge for my $120 order came to only $20, with free freight and net 60 terms. (In an interesting twist on the traditional net 60 arrangement, you provide a credit card which is automatically charged 60 days after the product is shipped.) According the site, the first order of products from a line is a guaranteed sale, and as far as I can tell the wholesale prices are the same as usual.

So what is Faire, and where did it come from? The site, which was originally called Indigo Fair, is an online marketplace launched by three partners just two years ago. The concept was to offer store owners an opportunity to shop online (bypassing both trade shows and sales reps). The products purchased through the site would be available with a free return policy similar to consumer sites.

In their blog, they quote Marcy Israel of WinkSF as saying “Indigo Fair gives us the opportunity to experience new merchandise in our store and see if it is a good match for our customers. We are able to try new merchandise we might not have purchased. For example, PyroPet Candles have been one of our bestsellers and we would not have ordered them without the option to return them.” 

The focus of the site, which changed its name to Faire last year after raising $12 million in venture capital, is local retail. According to co-founder Max Rhodes, “We are using technology to connect and empower local retailers and makers. These small business owners employ millions of Americans and support a growing maker ecosystem employing millions more. Boutiques are also a vital part of the color and character of communities across the country. The internet has long been viewed as a threat to these store owners and the livelihoods that depend on them, but Faire [Indigo Fair] is using technology to enable local retailers to compete in this new era of commerce.

How does it work? Suppliers on Faire, which run the gamut from makers and craftspeople to small importers/manufacturers, each set their own minimum, or state that there is no minimum order. Once you’ve registered your store, the online system is very easy to use, and the site is searchable by types of products, holidays, new arrivals, best sellers and goods local to your area. I particularly appreciate the “not sold on Amazon” option. There is also a limited-time section of sale items, and a smartphone app for ordering on the go.

It’s hard to estimate how many of our suppliers are offering products through Faire, but by checking the products offerings of some that we already buy from I can see that they are only offering a curated selection of products rather than their full line. That makes sense when you consider that the site is offering guaranteed sales on first orders, and free freight to those who purchase a monthly subscription.

If $100 off on an order tempts you to give Faire a try, I’m happy to share the link they provided for me to share when I signed up (I may or may not get a bonus if you join). They will also provide you with a $100 credit if you recommend a vendor who joins Faire – and give you zip code protection with that maker.

It worries me that Faire’s success may weaken the role of sales reps and agencies in our industry, although some of the vendors on the site are small enough that they would not have been able to afford reps or exhibited at a trade show. If you find a vendor on Faire that does use sales reps, please consider placing your reorders through the one assigned to your territory.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder